La Via Verde de la Sierra
What is it?
“La Via Verde de la Sierra” is one of Andalucia’s best kept secrets. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds of monuments and get out to the real Andalucian countryside for that natural high (and burn off the extra calories of that jamón ibérico at the same time), this is a day trip that’s worth the detour. What was a failed project to build a train line 80 years later becomes one of Andalucia’s most enjoyable (and unknown) bike routes. Under the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera work began in this part of Andalucia to build a railway to join the pueblos blancos or “white villages” with Jerez in an effort to boost the economy of this otherwise poor region. Building began in 1926 but soon money dried up and the project was abandoned–a recurring theme in Spanish economics. Flash forward to the late 90s when the local government picked the project back up, seeing an opportunity to create a unique cycling/hiking route. The path follows the intended train line, 36 km in length with 30 tunnels to add to the fun.
How to do it
Three main “stations” are found on the Via Verde, starting with Puerto Serrano to the west, then moving eastward to Coripe station, finally ending in Olvera. You can start in Puerto Serrano and cycle to Coripe and back, or drive to Coripe and cycle to Olvera. Or if you’re hard core (and we know you are), you can cycle from Puerto Serrano straight on through to Olvera and back, taking a little over 5 hours, more if you stop for lunch or to take photos (which you’ll want to). It makes better sense to go west to east, doing the ever so gradual climb and enjoying a quicker return cycle angled downwards (there’s a gentle gain of about 400m from Puerto Serrano to Olvera). As far as snacks on the road goes, plan on lunch in Coripe, it is right at Km 16 and there’s a fantastic restaurant there run by a family that puts together a darn good spread of honest Andalucian home cooking. There’s also an excellent restaurant in Olvera for a tapa and a cold beer before making your way back. The Via Verde can be done as a day trip from either Jerez or Ronda, or even Sevilla.
What you’ll need
A bike and a helmet of course (we’ve got ‘em). And a good bike light or headlamp, as many of the tunnels aren’t illuminated.
What you’ll see along the way
Your vistas will be filled with old growth olive trees, holm and cork oak, several different kinds of poplars, and all manner of wild flowers. You’ll also run into many different varieties of native birds, including three different types of vultures, circling majestically in the air looking for carrion in the rocks below. They make their nests in the Peñon de Zaframagón, a dramatic crag between Coripe and Olvera, and the most important breeding ground for these birds in Andalucia.
Simple farms, ruined cortijos (farm houses), goats, sheep, even a bull ranch (mind the warning signs!) are also sights you’ll see along the way. You might run into some local villagers harvesting wild herbs and snails along the route, townsfolk on horseback who use the Via Verde to visit neighbors in the next village or visit one of the numerous religious shrines tucked away along the route. And of course, tiny white villages and ruined Moorish towers dotting the idyllic Andalucian landscape.
We were out on the Via Verde over the weekend with the camera to take in the recently arrived sun and the whole area was still drying from weeks of rain, but lush and teeming with life. The best times to do the Via Verde are in spring and fall, avoiding the temperature extremes of summer and winter. That being said, we can organize night rides on the Via Verde on full moon summer nights, an experience you’re not likely to forget!
Feel like going “verde”? Give us a ring and we can set you up with everything you need to make it a memorable experience.